The Central Coast covers a large area that stretches from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Within this broad area is California’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA, locally called the SLO Coast.
What is the SLO Coast AVA
The SLO Coast region is 60 miles long and 15 miles wide. It stretches from San Simeon in the north to Nipomo in the south. The Santa Lucia Mountain range lines the eastern border and the Pacific Ocean is the western border.
The Edna Valley AVA and Arroyo Grand AVA are two existing AVAs that now fall within the SLO Coast AVA. But comprising more than 400,000 acres, the SLO Coast AVA encompasses land, including Cambria and Spanish Springs, that had been lumped into the broad description of Central Coast. Until now.
There are 78 vineyards covering 3,941 planted acres in the SLO Coast AVA. There are more than 20 grapes varieties growing in the SLO Coast. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two primary grapes but as a cool-climate region, other grapes including Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Lagrein are also thriving.
How Was The SLO Coast AVA Created
Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards is part of the Arroyo Grande AVA. But he was one of the authors of the SLO Coast AVA proposal, which he started writing in 2015-2016 with Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines. They felt that the area lacked identity. It was not part of Santa Barbara County and calling it the “South Central Coast” did not sound right either. San Luis Obispo Coast was the perfect name. A group of 32 wineries making wine from grapes grown within the region formed the SLO Coast Wine Collective and applied for the SLO Coast AVA in 2017.
The new SLO Coast AVA was approved on April 8, 2022, and wineries can now use “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” on their labels. Wineries that also fall within the smaller Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs are permitted to use the appellation they feel best represents their wines. Brian Talley of Talley Vineyard sees the Arroyo Grande AVA as a “Cru” within the SLO Coast. And Jean Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards, the third oldest vineyard in Edna Valley, plans to use both Edna Valley AVA and San Luis Obispo Coast on his labels as useful identifiers for customers.
SLO Coast AVA will appear on more labels beginning with the 2022 vintage, but a few wineries have released wines from 2020 and 2021 with the new labeling as they were bottled after the new AVA was announced.
What Makes SLO Coast AVA Wines Special
What makes the SLO Coast stand out is that the SLO Coast is where the coast meets the vines. The average distance of the vines to the ocean is approximately seven miles. The Pacific Ocean’s influence keeps things cool, resulting in one of the world’s longest growing seasons which allows the grapes to develop complexity.
In addition to the climate, the SLO Coast also offers a diversity of soils, ranging from calcareous clay and fractured sandstone to fossilized shells, shale, and sand. It is the combination of the proximity to the ocean and the diversity of soils that make the SLO Coast unique.
Mike Sinor of Sinor LaValle shared that the new SLO Coast AVA means a lot to the community. “We were always a fly-over region,” he explained. “This lets us stand up in the industry and say, ‘We are here!’ We are west of west. We are almost ON the ocean. Combine that with longitude, cold from the fog, and sunshine and we have a growing season so long that we can have bud break in February.”
Great SLO Coast Wines To Buy
Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2020 SLO Coast AVA ($38)
Brian Talley’s family came to the region in 1948 when Brian’s grandfather Oliver Talley started Talley Farms in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Brian’s father planted grapes in the early 1980s and Talley Vineyards was the first winery to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Sourced from estate vineyards, Rincon Vineyard and Rosemary’s Vineyard in Arroyo Grande, and Oliver’s Vineyard in Edna Valley, the Chardonnay spends 11 months in French oak (25% new) and three months in tank. The wine has bright aromas of peach, pear, citrus, and crushed rocks and on the palate the wine is fresh with crisp acidity and a mineral finish.
Click here to order Talley Wines online
Dunites Wine Co 2020 SLO Coast Syrah San Soufre ($32)
Tyler and Rachel Eck started Dunites Wines Co in 2015. Both Tyler and Rachel have full-time jobs in the wine industry and started Dunites to focus on low-intervention wines. They source fruit from the Spanish Springs Vineyard and the Bassi Vineyard and love SLO Coast’s proximity to the ocean and the diversity of soils. Made with native yeasts, the wine is unfiltered, unfined, and has no sulfites. The wine has notes of blackberry, violets, and earth and has a lovely salty saline character in the finish.
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Saucelito Canyon 2021 Dry Rose, San Luis Obispo Coast ($24)
Located 30 miles inland from the coast, Saucelito Canyon is included in the SLO Coast AVA. Nancy and Bill Grennough bought the property in 1972. The property was cattle land but had abandoned vines as well. Today the 320-acre property has three acres that remain of Zinfandel planted in 1880, the oldest vines in the area. Son Tom Grennough took over as winemaker in 2009. A blend of 70% Zinfandel, 20% Grenache, and 10% Tempranillo is barrel fermented. The wine is golden with pink flecks and is bright and fresh with a long saline finish and good texture.
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If you are looking for somewhere cool to go wine tasting, check out the SLO Coast.